The intersection is at Highway 99 and 148th Street SW, where I have both witnessed and experienced "close calls" between cars and a Swift bus.
The problem happens when an eastbound car on 148th approaches the intersection to turn right, which would put them southbound onto Highway 99. There is a dedicated right-hand turn lane at this location. Once cars enter this lane, when the other eastbound-facing lanes are full of other vehicles, the only way to see around the other vehicles to know if it's clear to turn right is to proceed forward in the turn lane.
But when a southbound Swift bus is approaching, intending to stop at the bus stop that's only a few yards south of the intersection, that bus must cross into the turn lane to pull into its stop. The front of my car has almost been clipped a couple of times in that right-turn lane, but I was lucky enough to avoid being hit.
Just recently, I saw another driver enter the turn lane, pull forward to see around the other cars, then realize a bus was coming. He chose to back up to give right-of-way to the bus, but another car had entered the turn lane behind him and the two cars collided.
Dave Chesson, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, responds: Nancy raises a valid point. Our staff visited the site and noticed the same potential for interference between any right-turning driver on 148th who happens to stop too far forward while a southbound bus needs to make an approach into the Highway 99 Swift station.
A driver judges where to pull forward based on any number of clues at an intersection. In this particular case, it appears that the most prominent landmark that drivers use is the raised traffic island in the southwest corner of the intersection. Given the way it's positioned, the island inadvertently encourages a stopping position too near the entry path of a bus. The traffic island was built long before the Swift station, and was not modified after its construction.
Based on our review, we plan to make some adjustments here. There are a couple of approaches that we will look at. Our main interest is to reshape and set back the island farther to the west to establish a better separation between buses and right-turn traffic.
We'll still need to examine a number of details. If difficulties arise with island reconstruction, we'll then look at adjusting signs and striping.
In both cases (with or without island reconstruction), the plan is to remove the visually busy diagonal lines in front of the traffic island which effectively will shift the understood stopping point farther back, to provide a buffer zone for the right turns from southbound Highway 99 traffic and the Swift buses. A yield line will be added to show where to stop for the eastbound right lane.
We hope to make these changes later this summer, depending on our schedule on other priority maintenance projects.
Bob Stanaway Lake Stevens writes: I frequently travel Highway 92, just east of Highway 9 in Lake Stevens. A recent pavement patch job left a big dip on the left side of the eastbound lane. Being in paving for 30 years I can see no reason for it, except maybe for keeping me awake when I hit it on the way home from work. The dip is just west of 99th Avenue NE, where I have to take a left turn.
Chesson of the transportation department responds: Bob is correct, there is actually a small dip at this location near Stevens Creek, which has been caused by minor settling of the roadway. We put in a patch, but that was quite a while ago and further settling has occurred.
This summer our maintenance crews will grind and pave a larger area of both lanes. Smoother and longer-lasting asphalt repairs can only be done when it is warm and dry. Our work this summer should fix the dip and improve the ride for drivers.
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